China and Myanmar signed dozens of deals on Saturday to speed up infrastructure projects in the country, as Beijing seeks to cement its hold over a neighbour increasingly isolated by the West.
President Xi Jinping met Myanmar’s de facto leader, state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for the second day of his two-day trip – the first by a Chinese head of State in 19 years – seeking to boost his Belt and Road Initiative, Efe news reported.
Xi and Suu Kyi signed 33 agreements shoring up key projects that are part of the flagship Belt and Road Initiative, China’s vision of new trade routes described as a “21st-century silk road”.
In addition to that, both the leaders agreed to set up a special economic zone on their mutual border and to promote urban development in the Southeast Asian country’s biggest city, Yangon.
Suu Kyi and Xi also signed a memorandum of understanding for the building of a deep seaport in Rakhine, as well as bolstering cooperation in the security and agri-food sectors.
Xi’s trip comes at a time when Suu Kyi’s government has been facing diplomatic isolation from the West and the Islamic world due to its handling of the Rohingya crisis over the past few years.
During a welcoming ceremony on Friday, “Xi hailed a “new era” of relations between the countries”.
“We are drawing a future roadmap that will bring to life bilateral relations based on brotherly and sisterly closeness in order to overcome hardships together and provide assistance to each other,” he said. He was scheduled to leave later on Saturday.
Suu Kyi called China “a great country playing an important role in the international affairs and the world economy” but urged for economic projects that avoid environmental degradation and benefit local people.
(With inputs from agency)